Coming full circle – From homeowner to homeless to helping others



Joette never imagined she’d fall into homelessness in her lifetime. After all, she was born into a mid-west middle class family, with a solid upbringing, three years at Kent State University, and a home of her own.

“As a young adult, I fell in love with Denver,” said Joette. “I packed up my Ohio life and moved. “In the span of 10 years, I found a good job, got married, had two children, and got divorced. My life – with its ups and downs – was definitely in Denver.”

But her mother got sick and Joette moved back to Ohio with her children to care for her ailing parent. Her plans were to be there for several years, after which she would return to Denver; but stayed much longer. Joette took the opportunity to complete her degree in Business and Computer Science at Kent State. That led to employment at the University for the next 10 years.

Her daughter was growing up and Joette thought she would attend college at Kent State. Instead, she enlisted in the Army and moved to Ft. Bragg, NC.  Life happened and the young sergeant was deployed overseas.

“The military asked me to come to Ft. Bragg to care for my two grandchildren and my daughter’s home while she served our country,” recalled Joette. And once again she picked up her life and moved, this time for seven years.

“When the tours ended, my daughter moved to Orlando; but it wasn’t long before she decided to re-enlist and called on me for help,” she said. A loving mom and grandma, Joette moved south.  The promised three months became nine. Joette again took the opportunity to further her education, as she was unable to find employment, this time for medical billing and coding.

With the help of Career Source, a Pell Grant and school loans, Joette was able to go to school and move into a place of her own when her daughter returned, all the while still available to her family.

But the money ran out 12 weeks before graduation and Joette moved back in with her daughter. What should have been a supportive environment turned angry. Her daughter decided Joette should move into a homeless shelter. She packed Joette’s belongings, made an appointment at Coalition for the Homeless, and dropped her off here. That was in June 2011.

“After having gone through such meanness, the dorm was like heaven,” said Joette of her first night at the Coalition.  “When I woke up, I felt relaxed. The weight of the world was off my back. It was a life-changing experience to be with this room full of people. I didn’t even know the resources available, but said to myself, ‘I’m going to be all right.’”

While here, Joette graduated with an AA degree in Medical Billing & Coding.  Her hunt for an office job instead led her to a position at Dillard’s and a future plan to open her own medical billing business.  In May 2012, her growing savings made her eligible for the Coalition’s Scattered Site Housing Program, until “I became totally self-sufficient.”

Unfortunately, two very serious strokes stopped Joette in her tracks.  She had to retire from Dillard’s and forego her business dreams; but this miracle woman, as the doctor called her, was still alive.  Thus, she still needed an income.  She said to herself, “I’m going to be all right.”

Recently, AARP led Joette to a part-time position at the Coalition as the Employment Lab Administrative Assistant in our new Men’s Service Center, helping clients master computer skills, complete resumes, search and apply for jobs, and complete other relevant tasks.  She is thrilled to be back at the Coalition – this time in a helping role.

“The greatest plans can go awry, but you can still succeed. With all I’ve endured, I continue to have many successes and this opportunity is one of them.  You might say I’ve come full circle!””